The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.
A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.
But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.
Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.
About the Book
Author: Chloe Gong
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance, Mystery
Final Rating: 4 Stars
The stars incline us, they do not bind us.
My god. Well, that was a whirlwind. Let’s see if I can write a coherent review, hmm?
I’ll admit, the thing that drew me to this book in the first place was the cover. I mean, it’s beautiful. And besides, everyone loves this book. I was half expecting myself to hate it. But no, because I’m a boring person and have basically no unpopular opinions.
One of the first things that caught my attention almost immediately about this was the mood of Shanghai and both the Scarlet Gang and White Flowers. Brutal and violent, yet so mysterious. It’s literally perfection. The characters are products of their environments and it was honestly so fascinating reading about them interacting with other gang members or just talking about the gangs.
This place hums to the tune of debauchery. This city is filthy and deep in the thrall of unending sin, so saturated with the kiss of decadence that the sky threatens to buckle and crush all those living vivaciously beneath it in punishment.
Juliette Cai — Juliette in particular was brutal. I had mixed opinions about her throughout the book. She’s ruthless, can kill you in a heartbeat, and knows it. She’s arrogant and violent and flawed. She’s so cold and dark. At sometimes, I was cheering her on but at others I was just frustrated. She doesn’t have to act so cruel. I really wish that I could say I absolutely loved her because, if I’m being honest, she’s totally badass. But I really wish that she had more characterization, because, at times she seemed flat. Just a hollow shell of anger and violence (lol).
However, I found it really interesting reading about her struggling between being an American foreigner and a Chinese girl who would be tossed away without a second thought. I think it’s something a lot of Asian American people struggle with, so I think people would be able to relate to her, even though I wasn’t able to.
Hope was dangerous. Hope was the most vicious evil of them all, the thing that had managed to thrive in Pandora’s box among misery, and disease, and sadness—and what could endure alongside others with such teeth if it didn’t have ghastly claws of its own?
Roma Montagov – Roma was nice, I guess. I never really cared about him, but I would be upset if he died? I think? He could be charming, but at times he was too bland for my liking. He wasn’t nearly as cold as Juliette which I liked, but he was boring. And Chloe Gong went really deep into Juliette’s cultural identity, but Roma’s was barely gone into. Which was extremely frustrating. We don’t get anything about it other than the fact that he’s Russian (which is mentioned, like once).
But still. Roma calling Juliette dorogaya tugged at all my heartstrings.
I really liked the side characters. They were all so distinct, so different from one another which I loved, since so many authors make the personalities of side/minor characters boring and stiff. Marshall is so witty and I loved him. Benedikt was calm and cautious. Rosalind is so complex, and holds so much anger inside. And Kathleen was sweet and caring but could also be vicious when you tried to hurt the people she cared about. And she’s a trans women, who I feel like aren’t represented enough in fantasy so I loved seeing that.
I also loved the relationships between all the characters, not just Roma and Juliette. For example, Benedikt and Marshall were so perfect. The banter, and just the way that they care about each other was amazing (Does anyone else ship them?).
You destroy me and then you kiss me. You give me a reason to hat you and then you give me a reason to love you. Is this a lie or the truth? Is the a ploy or your heart reaching for me?
My favorite thing about this book? The writing. It was perfect. I loved it so freaking much. And as most of you know, I’m not a huge fan of flowery, pretty writing. So I was expecting to hate this aspect of the book. I was wrong. I’m obsessed. Chloe Gong has a beautiful, unique streak to her writing that I have never read before. It wasn’t confusing, as most nice writing styles are. It was beautiful and simple and so perfect. I’m so surprised she’s only a college student. She’s going to go really far.
Another thing I loved was the world building. It was done perfectly. There was so much information but never an info dump. The atmosphere of glittering Shanghai drew me in immediately and I didn’t want to leave. I also found it interesting that there wasn’t only the problem of the monster, but also colonialism and western imperialism (which, ironically, is what I’m studying at school right now). They were well incorporated into the story, and it was fascinating reading about.
These days, Juliette,” he said, low and warily, “the most dangerous people are the powerful white men who feel as if they have been slighted.
The plot . . . I mean, it was a little too slow paced for my liking. I found the story dragging a bit. I still loved the mystery, but I wish that it wasn’t so slow. I kind of forgot what Juliette and Roma found out, and I’m pretty sure that’s not a good sign. A couple chapters could have been taken away and I wouldn’t care.
But, the enemies to lovers felt genuine. And I’m talking knife to throat enemies to lovers. It wasn’t them kissing after chapter 7. It wasn’t the main focus of the story, which I appreciated, but I still loved it. I honestly wish there was more banter, but I could do without it. Juliette and Roma had amazing chemistry and I was shipping them from page 1. And I also liked how they had a history of betrayal, which just made my heart beat faster at the moments they had together.
Juliette supposed it was her turn to walk away. The lover and the liar, the liar and the lover. They switched those roles between themselves like it was a game.
And that ending killed me. I was switching between wanting to kill Juliette, wanting to hug Roma, and wanting them both to just kiss and be done with this whole monster business. But in more formal terms, the ending was beautiful and heartbreaking and frustrating and a huge cliffhanger. I’m really sad about it. But I also have a bunch of theories for the next book.
So, hopefully I will be able to snag an ARC of Our Violent Ends soon enough.
“Those who do not care, those who are violent, those who delight in that which is terrible”—Marshall shrugged, waving his hands about as he chose the right words—“they thrive. They come outside.”
This was one of my first times doing this, and I’m okay with it. If you’ve done bookstagram and have some tips, please let me know in the comments!
- Rewrite the Stars by Zac Efron & Zendaya
- Fairytale by Alexander Ryback
- Eyes Closed by Halsey
- Devil in Me by Halsey
- Love and War by Fleurie
- War of Hearts by Ruelle
- The Prologue by Halsey
- The Last of the Real Ones by Fall Out Boy
- Angel on Fire by Halsey
- My Blood by Ellie Goulding
- In My City by Ellie Goulding
- 100 Letters by Halsey
- New York by St. Vincent
- you broke me first by Tate McRae
- Madness by Ruelle
Find the playlist on Spotify here.